‘It was a controlled shot’: Witness describes Bucha killings

Russia has denied committing war crimes in the Kyiv region after images of civilian corpses sparked international condemnation.

Bucha, Ukraine –  They lie face-down in the rain, scattered on and near the road.

The lifeless bodies of civilians line the streets of Bucha, a town on the outskirts of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, that was under Russian occupation until last week.

Ukraine and its allies have accused Russian forces of committing war crimes in the areas they captured after invading Ukraine on February 24.

While Russia has rebuffed the allegations as unfounded, witness accounts of unprovoked civilian killings and images of the destroyed town’s streets littered with corpses have revealed extensive human suffering.

Hanna Herega, a Bucha resident, said she witnessed a man being killed by Russian troops. “He went to get some wood when all of a sudden they [Russians] started shooting. They hit him a bit above the heel, crushing the bone, and he fell down,” Herega told Al Jazeera.

“The shooter shouted: ‘Don’t scream or I will shoot!’ and they turned away. Then they shot off his left leg completely, with the boot. Then they shot him all over this side [on the chest.] And another shot went slightly below the temple. It was a controlled shot to the head,” she added.

volunteer inspects a body of killed person
Ukraine says the bodies of 410 civilians have been recovered from the Kyiv region [Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters]

Ukraine’s prosecutor general said the bodies of 410 civilians have been recovered so far from areas in the wider Kyiv region after Ukrainian forces regained complete control.

Before collecting the bodies, authorities photograph and document them in an effort to collect evidence that may form the basis of a war crimes investigation.

“We finally have an opportunity to register what happened here, all this will be [used] to present our case,” Bucha Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk said.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Bucha, counted at least 10 dead bodies on one road alone.

“Although the bodies will be removed from this road, the scars that this town is feeling will take a lot longer to heal,” he said.

Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have accused Russian troops of committing war crimes that may amount to “genocide”.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told Al Jazeera “what happened here isn’t just a crime. It’s genocide. Millions of Ukrainians have suffered.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply shocked” by images of dead civilians in Bucha and called for an independent investigation.

Russia’s defence ministry rejected the allegations and said its military units had left Bucha four days before the footage was released.

On Sunday, Moscow described footage and photographs of dead bodies as a “provocation” and a “staged performance” by Kyiv.

Source: Al Jazeera